It was great to see all of our members and partners at the Common App Member Summit earlier this month! Each year, our Member Summit brings together hundreds of enrollment leaders and admissions professionals from the more than 800 colleges and universities worldwide that make up the Common App Membership.

This year’s program included a diverse mix of sessions ranging from hands-on workshops to thought-provoking panel discussions featuring members, Common App experts, and industry thought leaders from the world of higher education policy and college access. Here are some highlights from this year’s event.

We kicked off the Member Summit with a pre-conference enrollment leaders workshop co-hosted by Common App and Arizona State University. Patrick Lane, Vice President of Policy & Analysis at Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) began the session by sharing recent research on student demographic shifts which served as useful context for understanding the challenges (and opportunities) facing higher education institutions with respect to student enrollment. Our partners at IDEO and The Purpose project then facilitated a design-thinking workshop on “Designing the Future of College Admissions.”

This year’s focus was on forging our future by expanding our reach, supporting access, and gaining insight into our profession. Our CEO, Jenny Rickard, shared an update with our members on how the Common App is continuing to forge a direct, unambiguous path to a viable future for all students.

She shared the exciting news that we will have representation from all 50 states in the United States among our membership, now including North Dakota! She outlined a few key priorities for achieving our vision, including how we’re scaling our impact, lowering barriers to access, supporting those who support students, leveraging date to inform our practices, and broadening the types of institutions and students we serve.

We then welcomed our keynote speaker, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) who shared powerful remarks about his personal journey and the work he’s done at UMBC to increase diversity and increase access to higher education for underrepresented students. Dr. Hrabowski implored us all to tear down barriers to access by exclaiming, "thoughts become words. Words become habits. Habits become character. Character becomes destiny."

This year’s Summit saw an unprecedented level of member and partner involvement. Along with everyone’s favorite Member Tech Live, attendees heard from Eric Waldo on our new partnership with Reach Higher, our data science team on Common App’s new strategic initiatives, and our members on best practices while using the Common App. Members had the opportunity to network and learn from experts at the Common App on how to expand access and connect students to financial aid, scholarship and counseling resources that will help prospective applicants.

Of note were sessions from Reach Higher where we shared some insight with members on new access and equity initiatives we’re considering at Common App, as well as preliminary research we’re conducting to identify common barriers for students in completing their application. Our data science team also shared the initial results of a texting intervention conducted earlier this spring to over 30,000 students with the goal of providing help and encouragement to students who may be stuck in the application process and direct them to support resources.

Plus, we hosted several panels covering a wide range of strategic and operational topics, including transfer application best practices, guidance on criminal history, recruitment marketing, CRM integration, working with school counselors, and much more. 

Jenny also moderated a panel focused on the national efforts aimed at re-envisioning the assessment of talent and potential in the admission process. Members heard from The Learning Policy Institute, Making Caring Common, Education First, the American Talent Initiative and the Opportunity & Education Equity Center about the ways in which we can reimagine the college admissions process to be more inclusive of all students.

According to Brennan Barnard of Making Caring Common, “Making Caring Common is grateful for our collaboration with The Common Application and its membership as we work together to encourage ethical character, reduce excessive achievement pressure and level the playing field for economically diverse students. The messages we send through the application experience can promote more meaningful contributions to others, community service and engagement with the public good, and we are excited about envisioning innovative ways of assessing this ethical engagement in ways that reflect varying types of family and community contributions across race, culture and class.”

This summary only scratches the surface of what was shared last week. It was an action-packed event where member institutions, partners, and the Common App team explored the potential for making the application simple, the process logical, and the experience joyful. We hope our members took away some insightful ways to tear down barriers to college access for all students.

To learn more about presentations from this year’s Summit, visit our website to read session descriptions and download PDFs of individual session presentations.

Be sure to save the date for next year’s Summit which will be held on May 6-8, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. We hope to see you there!